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Ned Delaney
The Story of An Emmitsburg Born Slave

Originally Published in The Van Buren News-Eagle, Van Buren, Indiana, August 29, 1940

The following bit of history has been handed to us by Mrs. Frank Boller, whose father, the late Wm. Hays, settled on a farm in Van Buren township in 1849, and will be read with interest by his descendants who so often heard him relate incidents of his boyhood and Old Uncle Ned. In fact, the Ned referred to, helped raise the Hays family.

Tommie, for whom the negro was purchased, was the father of Wm. Hays, mentioned above. Relatives include the families of John L Thompson, Captain. Jos. Lugar, David James, Wm. Doyle, Jesse Farr, Joseph W. Hays, Thomas Hays, John W. Hays, Samuel E. Hays, Arthur Hays, George O. Hays and C.H. Black.

The story: On a shaded hillside in beautiful Hazelwood Cemetery in Grinnell, Iowa is the last resting place of Edward Delaney. A tree growing from the foot of the grassy mound testifies to the age of the grave; for the tree is more than two feet in diameter. A head stone of the style of fifty years ago gives witness that some one cared when the prairie sod was cut on the treeless slope sixty-seven years ago -- cared enough to furnish a last resting place in his own family lot -- cared enough to ease the declining years, provide medical attention and give Christian burial to a black man and to mark his grave with a stone bearing the inscription: Edward Delaney, 1780-1861.

How came a negro Edward Delaney to be interred in a Grinnell cemetery? It is difficult at this late date and this far north to appreciate the real condition of the colored man born in slavery. Edward Delaney had no remembrance of father or mother. His color and his features testified to his pure African blood. He was sold as a slave in a slave state at an early age and the man who sold him was a planter named Delaney, hence the name of the headstone in Hazelwood.

Edward Delaney, a slave for seventy years, died a free man at seventy-five. The man who stood long ago by the open grave, who, no doubt, brushed away a tear as the clods fell above the still form of Uncle Ned, the man who gave his former slave a white manís burial and who raised the stone in his memory, had in his possession a bill of sale testifying that Joseph Hays was the master and Edward Delaney his slave. But while legally the owner of a slave, Joseph Hays hated the institution of slavery, hated it to the extent that he cast the only vote cast in his county in Maryland for John P. Hale, the Free Soil candidate for President.

It seems a long trail from Uncle Ned, the humble slave, who lies in Hazlewood cemetery to the immortal author of the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key. Human destinies are curiously interwoven and had it not been for the friendship of Francis Scott Key and the father of Joseph Hays, who bought Ned, Edward Delaney would lie in an unmarked grave on some southern plantation. Here is the story: We shall have to go back to the stirring days of the War of 1812. Almost within hearing of the guns of the British fleet as they sought to force an entrance to Baltimore Harbor by reducing Fort McHenry.

Here in Frederick (now Carroll) County, Maryland was the 400 acre plantation of Joseph Hays, the elder, grandfather of Daniel F. and Joseph T. Hays, still lining in Grinnell. Adjoining the Hays plantation was that of Col. John Ross Key, father of Francis Scott Key, who during the bombardment of Fort McHenry penciled the words of the National Anthem on a scrap of paper Colonel Key commanded a regiment of militia called out by President Washington in 1794 to suppress the Whiskey insurrection in western Pennsylvania. It was in a company of Col. John Ross Keyís regiment, composed of Frederick (now Carroll) county men, that Francis Scott Key and Joseph Hays, friends from boyhood, served side by side, as they had served in the War of the Revolution under Washington.

It was about the year 1790 that Joseph Hays, then a young man of about 25, decided to buy a little negro boy as a playmate for his eldest son Tommie. It was with this in mind that he drove to Baltimore and thence presumably by boat to the eastern shore of Maryland. This was a long trip for those days before the advent of the railroad and steamboat.

At the plantation of one Delaney (Editors Note: This would be Daniel Dulany and his plantation was called Buck Forest.  A track a land just south of Rt. 76 and bi-sected by Old Frederick Road) where pickaninnies were plentiful Hays purchased Neddie then four years old and took him home to Tommie as one would take a dog or a pony.

It will be remembered that Maryland was a slave state and that Joseph Hays assumed obligations other than simple ownership when he bought and paid for Ned Delaney. While he assumed ownership he also assumed responsibility for his slaveís maintenance. He had no right to free him without giving bond for his maintenance. This was a just provision as it prevented heartless owners from freeing their slaves and permitting them to die without care when their usefulness was past, or to become public charges.

Then came the War of 1812, the burning of Washington, the defense of Baltimore and finally peace. His story repeats itself and the average man fails to read the warnings. An incident in the life of Ned and indicative of the conditions following the second war with England is illuminating. There were no railroads, few factories, and consequently little except local traffic. This was the era of canal construction and movement of goods was slow and expensive. Each community had its own flour mill where the wheat of the neighborhood was milled.

The finished flour was hauled to the cities by teams, stored in warehouses and distributed by the slow methods then in vogue. It was Nedís job to haul his masterís flour from the local mill to Baltimore, some forty miles distant. Ned was at this time in him prime, a man of about thirty-five years of age. Shortly before peace was declared he went to Baltimore with a load of flour to be stored in the warehouse for future sale.

Weíll tell the rest in Nedís own report of the transaction on his return. Said Ned, The merchant said ĎTell your master heíd better sell his flour because it going to go down.í I said, "you say flourís going down? Then sell it.í He did and hereís your money. The sale was made at $14.00 per barrel. The next flour Ned hauled to Baltimore brought $4.00 per barrel. This will sound familiar to Iowa farmers, who held $3.00 corn in the expectation of getting $3.50 after the last war.

A resident of Frederick (now Carroll) county at this time was one Geier, later generally spoken of by the Hays clan as old Greier. Evidently a man of prominence in his community, he was appointed paymaster in the army during the war with England. Inasmuch as this position called for the handling of considerable Government funds, it was necessary that Geier secure bondsmen. Bonding companies were then unknown and what more natural than that Geier looked to his brother Mason for assistance.

Joseph Hays and three neighbors, all prominent Masons and well to do planters in Frederick (now Carroll) county signed Geierís bond. Final settlement of war claims is always somewhat slow. The temptation to mishandle Government funds is not new under the sun. Whatever the reason for Geierís betrayal of his trust, we have no record. Hays and his fellow bondsmen awake one day to find that Geier had decamped with Government funds and they as honorable bondsmen they would have to reimburse the Government.

We can only imagine the feelings of these wealthy planters to find themselves beggared in late life through no fault of their own. When it appeared that his entire estate would go under the hammer to satisfy the claim of the government, Hayís first impulse was to protect Ned, then a healthy man, valuable as a servant, and as property, subject to sale for debt.

When it seemed sure that everything must go Hays sold Ned to his son, also named Joseph, at the nominal price of $5.00. A bill of sale was drawn up and Edward Delaney became the property of Joseph Hays, Jr. Frances Scott Key now appears in the picture. He is living in Washington and holding a prominent official position. Stirred by the plight of his boyhood friends he used his influence with Congress and secured the passing of a special act granting the bondsmen life leases on their plantations. In his presentation of their cases to Congress, Key argued that the obligation to the Government was through no fault of the bondsmen, that the men were old and would be thrown on charity in their declining years and that the granting of this respite would only keep the government out of the property for a few years at most.

In the latter part of his prophecy Key was three-fourths correct. Three of the plantations soon passed into Government hands by the death of their owners and were sold to satisfy the claim. Joseph Hays, thanks to the intervention of Francis Scott Key and a good constitution lived to enjoy the use of his property for about thirty-five years. Faithful to his master, who had prevented him from being Sold South Ned served the old master while the nominal property of his son.

The old plantation served as a home for the elder Joseph and his four sons and three daughters as well as for the orphaned children of his son Abram. These three, later, Abram, Samuel and Catherine, with a relative Darius Thomas were among the early settler in Poweshick and Jasper counties. Then came the death of the elder Joseph in 1852 at the ripe old age of 90, having reared a large family, established them for themselves in spite of his earlier misfortune, he passed on.

The death of Joseph Hays terminated the life lease and after the necessary legal formalities occupying several months, the Hays plantation went on the block, was sub-divided into three farms and sold by the government.

There is a sequel to the story, Old Geier took his stealings with him to Missouri, interested in cheap lands and grew wealthy. He became a man of prominence in his new community and had the effrontery to get himself elected to Congress. Frances Scott Key remembered the case of his former friends. It was too late to help them; but tradition has it that he went to Geier and compelled him to make restitution for at least part of the stolen funds under threat of prosecution.

Upon the death of the elder Joseph, the Hays clan, numbering now about seventeen, found themselves without a home. This was a contingency naturally foreseen, and like prudent people they had been laying aside funds against the death of the aged head of the family. Also like prudent people they cast their eyes to the West.

A council was called and the question arose as to what would be done with Ned. Legally, he was the property of Jos. Hays, the younger, although he had always lived and worked for the elder Joseph. Ned was an old man now, able to do but little work and crippled with rheumatism. The owner was responsible for the slave and he must be provided for. It was decided to consult Ned himself. His verdict was, Iíll stick to Debbie. Debbie with Mary, her sister, and both unmarried, had kept the house for their father and his family and had practically become the head of the family at his death.

With no definite goal in view the long journey toward the west commenced. Three wagons with seventeen people made up the party. Three months were required for the trip. Uncle Ned, still legally a slave, was with the party. Still a slave he came to the Ohio river in Wheeling. When they reached the Ohio shore two of the boys in the party lifted Uncle Ned so he could crack his rheumatic heels together, free at last on Ohio soil, but dependent on his white friends for care in his declining years.

Across the Ohio, then fairly settled; on through Indiana, on through Illinois where a stop was made with relatives at Rushville. Uncle Ned enjoyed every mile of the trip. A negro was a curiosity in the north at that time. When the caravan passed through a settlement Ned was given a seat high on the top of the highest wagon. Here he rode in state, grinning delightedly on the small boys who scampered beside the wagons thinking a circus was coming to town.

After looking over Illinois lands and stopping several places in eastern Iowa, the three land seekers arrived in Grinnell. At this pre-war time the country was divided into two sections, the division being the Mason and Dixon Line. Who Mason and Dixon were and why the line is a long story which it is not necessary to enter into here. It suffices to state that prejudices established in the east emigrated with the new settlers to the west.

Those from points above the Mason and Dixon line were know by those farther south as blue nose Yankees, nigger stealers, etc., while the Yanks retaliated by calling their southern brethren, nigger drivers, slave holders, etc. Now J.B. Grinnell and those of his associates who settled Grinnell and vicinity were among the blue noses. Old settlers will recall that these down easters preferred settlers from their own section. It happened therefore that Thomas and the Hays boys were not received in Grinnell with open arms in spite of their well-filled purses. Land men steered them out to the more undesirable lands on Bear Creek telling them the more desirable tracts were all taken.

Disheartened at the prospect of finding what they wanted near Grinnell, the three men prepared to go on to land of which they had heard near Des Moines. They had provided themselves with horses and were breaking camp from their camping place near where the Spaulding Mfg. Co. building now stands, when Henry Lawrence, one of the founders of Grinnell came by. He stopped and asked, are you men really looking for land to move on as Settlers? Upon being assured that such was the case he said, come with me, Iíll show you plenty of good land. He took them north of Grinnell into Chester Township where tracts were chosen for all members of the Joseph Hays family who desired to emigrate.

It is of interest to note that this land was entered at a price of $1.25 per acre. Having found the land the three scouts returned to Illinois and prepared for the long journey. So came Edward Delaney to Grinnell. Old time residents will recall the double frame house on Main street across from where the Buick garage now stands. This was the home of Aunt Debbie Hays until her death in the late eighties. Here Uncle Ned lived and here he died. Faithful to the last, he stuck to Debbie and Mary.

In the Hays lot in Hazelwood cemetery stands a simple stone bearing the bronze emblem of the D.A.R., the last resting place of Aunt Debbie Hays, a real daughter of the Revolution. A few feet away under the tree, with a similar stone at the head lies all that is mortal of Edward Delaney. He has stuck to Debbie even in death.

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